When someone asks if I have children, how many, and how old (the answers are yes; three; ages 11, nine and six) - their response to me is usually some variation of “Wow - you’ve got your hands full!” or “You’re in the thick of it!” Typically, it’s a woman who is older than me, whose children are grown and gone. I shall call her #olderwellrestedwoman
Often, she will follow up with something along the lines of “Enjoy these days - they go by so fast!” Or, my personal favorite “You’re going to miss this!”
At which point, as I’m looking at her well-rested face and calm demeanor, I usually respond with a polite “I know! Thanks!” but internally I’m throwing her the mother of all eye rolls. Thanks, #olderwellrestedwoman
What I’m really thinking is that they call it “the thick of it” because it’s HARD. It’s not always hard, and it’s not always exhausting, but let’s be honest - a lot of it is. That’s why it’s called THE THICK OF IT.
Thick - like my waistline - is not ideal. Thick is too much of one thing.
“You’re going to miss this!” is precisely what I don’t need to hear as my child is pitching a fit because she’s hungry, but won’t eat the hot dog I got her because “it tastes like a hot dog.” Or as my girls are fighting over the only crayon in the car, which is inexplicable given the estimated billions of crayons we own. Or as my eleven-ager gives me copious attitude because he’s hangry and currently filled with discontent. This is the thick of it, folks. And I’m in it.
I can’t help but feel trivialized when an #olderwellrestedwoman says that I’m going to miss this. I know that’s not their intent, but what I hear is “you should be enjoying this more than you are.” What I also hear is a resounding message that I shouldn’t complain about my life or my kids. Ever.
My children and my husband and my life are absolute treasures to me: I am abundantly blessed. I FOUGHT to have these precious children. I love them more than Outlander and ironic coffee mugs. However, I should be able to lean on and vent to my village about the less than perfect moments and seasons of raising children, marriage, and life, and to do so without enduring the retort “but you’re going to miss this.” Just let me be where I am. Yes - I will miss pieces of this - but pieces of this are also REALLY HARD. They’re thick.
I’m not alone: the other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about how tired she is of her kids being slobs. She was complaining about cleaning their rooms that she had repeatedly asked them to clean. More than one person responded to her post “but you will miss the mess when they are grown and gone!” Ugh. Eye roll.
No. She won’t miss the mess, and YES - she’s tired of cleaning up after people who are perfectly capable of cleaning up after themselves. Will she miss her kids? Of course. But she won’t miss feeling underappreciated, overworked and exhausted. That, I’m fairly confident, she won’t miss. I felt a kinship with her - that in her desire to express frustration with her reality - people felt the need to comment that she shouldn’t feel that way. She absolutely can, and should, be able to vent to her “village” without reproach. It ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.
If you know me, you know I tell it like it is, and though I have sunshine and rainbows, I’ve also got the other less colorful stuff too, like anyone. I could only post the perfect moments, but where’s the solidarity in that?
Case in point - here is my post on Facebook from the other day:
Public FB post: 72°, wine with a friend, Colorado sunshine, kids playing in gorgeous new backyard. #blessed
Real life FB post: cleverly obscure fighting sister from view and pretend you can’t hear repeated fights over the same damn toy and the incessant requests for water, snacks and Kleenex. #notenoughwineinmyhouse
I could have just posted the first part, and gotten lots of “likes” and “loves” and everyone could assume that the situation was 100% peachy. Was it great? Yes. But there was more to it than the serene photo shows, and I wasn’t afraid to share it. Fighting sisters were a part of the scene.
Life is not black and white and it’s not good or bad - it simply is. Some days have more good than bad. But we are doing a disservice to each other if we only present the “Facebook perfect” moments. We connect with people by communicating with them: I feel a rush of support and happiness when someone identifies with something I’ve said, even if it’s about something not so great. It’s what connects us, our experiences.
There is a strange kind of shame in acknowledging this time in life for exactly what it is: challenging, messy, exhausting, worrisome and a bit like a Cat 4 hurricane. You know what? Own it. It’s your damn hurricane, girl. This is your circus and these are your monkeys.
So, if you’re tempted to tell someone “you’re going to miss this,” I encourage you to think twice. Consider responding with a supportive “I remember those days - they were great, but hard!” Buy that mom some wine. Tell her she’s doing a great job. Tell her it’s worth it. Tell her that she’s in the thick of it, and you’ve got her back if she needs you. That’s what she needs to hear.
About the author: Kara Roberts is in the “just thrilled to be here” camp – amongst these many accomplished, talented female authors. Kara has a background in marketing, advertising, copywriting, event planning, and photography. She enjoys writing about the joys and challenges of parenting, adulting, and other (sometimes dreadful) experiences.
Kara has a BA in Film Studies and English from Willamette University, and an MBA from the University of Colorado. A Seattle native, she now lives in northern Colorado with her dashing husband, three charming yet exhausting children, and beloved 13 year old chocolate lab named Finnegan.
She has an affinity for dogs, wine, witty coffee mugs, sarcasm, and has an unhealthy obsession with Grey’s Anatomy. Despite being from Seattle, she loathes the rain, doesn’t eat seafood, and didn’t drink coffee until well into her 30’s.
I’ve been sitting here marveling at the fact that I am still celebrating firsts in my life. I just recently celebrated my forty-seventh birthday, and for some reason I thought maybe those events would happen a lot less as I got older. I realize now what a silly way of thinking that was. While new things may not happen on a daily basis, life is ever changing. New opportunities arise all the time, and paths appear before me that I never imagined I’d discover. I find this truly amazing.
It feels as though we are constantly breaking new ground in our everyday lives. Last summer, my daughter graduated from high school. I homeschooled her from the time she was four until the month she turned eighteen. I won’t say everything about those fourteen years was easy, but I can honestly tell you that I loved being a homeschooling mom. That was a huge accomplishment for both of us, the day we gathered with our friends and family and celebrated the hard work we’d put in. Algebra. Need I say more?
I always thought I’d get to homeschool my son, who is three and a half years younger than his sister, all the way through his senior year of high school. That was the plan, and he and I were an outstanding team through the elementary and middle school years. High school? Not so much. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying on both of our parts, I assure you. After a rough year, we decided maybe he and I had run our homeschool course. Maybe it was time to try something different. Homeschooling had been a good thing for us. We’d visited other options in the past, but we’d decided to stick with what was working. When it stopped working for him, we chose another path.
Those were both firsts for me; being the mom of a high school graduate, and suddenly not being a homeschooling mom anymore to either of my kids. They both happened nearly simultaneously, and it felt like an enormous shift in my life. I was prepared for one, not at all prepared for the other … but both of them turned out to be very good things.
The kids are on spring break this week. Scotty’s nearly through his first year in public school, and Maya will be completing her second semester of college here in about six weeks. They’ve both grown and changed so much through the years. I travel down memory lane quite frequently, and my most recent trip prompted this whole thinking about firsts I’ve been doing so much of lately. There was one in particular that came to mind. This happened back in 2011, and it was not only a first for Maya, but a first for homeschooled students across the U.S.
We were a part of a group called Cary Homeschoolers at the time. We were living in North Carolina, just a few minutes west of Raleigh. Wake County had seen its share of challenges when it came to the educational system, and many families had decided to pull their kids from public schools and homeschool them instead. There were more than 7,000 kids learning at home in just our county alone, so we had a lot of support and resources from which to draw. The group itself was comprised of more than 200 families, and we took part in a large number of educational events. One of them was a spelling bee.
This wasn’t just any spelling bee, though. It was the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which began back in 1925. It was held each and every year except 1943 – 1945 due to World War II. It wasn’t until eighty-six years after it’s conception that homeschooled students were allowed to compete. 2011 marked the first year homeschoolers were eligible, and Maya―who has always been an avid reader, and one who enjoys the way words work― decided she wanted to give it a go.
A fellow homeschooling mom―and an incredibly brave woman―took it upon herself to organize the regional bee. There were many rules to follow, much practicing, some tearful outbursts and a half dozen group practice rounds before Maya competed for the first time in January 2011. Maya’s hard work paid off, and she walked out of the Eva Perry Library the regional champion. Then she spent the next month preparing for the state bee that was held on the North Carolina State University campus in late February.
There was a lot more practice that took place, and a few more tearful outbursts―mostly Maya’s, although I might have shed a few tears as well―before the big day came. She competed with eighty-four other students that day. Four hours in, she was asked to spell a word that wasn’t pronounced the way she’d practiced it … and she misspelled it. It was not the easiest word on the twenty some page list Maya had been studying from. It wasn’t the hardest one, either. Still, she finished in twelfth place at the state level and will forever be one of the first homeschooled students to ever compete and win a regional round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
While not every first we’ll encounter in our lives will be as monumental as this one was for Maya, I’ve decided that every one of them is important and special in their own way. Even the firsts that aren’t necessarily positive serve to teach us and help us grow. Certainly, the ones that are, well, those are the ones that really need to be celebrated.
Whatever your nest looks like, it's the people and animals in it who make it a home. This page is dedicated to all things family: raising kids, juggling schedules, corralling pets, or navigating changing parental relationships.